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Glucose and Dextrose Explained

It can be a bit confusing when reading professional ice cream and gelato recipes the first time. They usually contain Dextrose or Glucose and then you might google a little and find out that Dextrose is in fact Glucose and you really don’t understand what is what and why different names are used. So in this post I will try to make this clear. The short version is that when you see Glucose in an ice cream recipe then that is some kind of Glucose Syrup or Glucose Powder and Dextrose is pure Glucose. The confusion is that in chemistry glucose is a sugar, a monosaccharide, but in the food industry glucose syrup refers to a sweetener made up of many glucose molecules derived from the breakdown of starch.


So Glucose in chemistry is a monosaccharide.

Glucose syrup

Glucose syrup is made by breaking down the starch in corn (or sometimes wheat, potatoes, or rice) into simpler sugars, primarily glucose, through a process called hydrolysis. This process involves treating the starch with enzymes or acid, which breaks the large starch molecules into smaller glucose molecules. The resulting syrup is then filtered and purified to remove impurities.

Glucose syrup is often used in food manufacturing because it has several functional properties. It helps prevent crystallization of sugar, improves the texture and mouthfeel of products, enhances moisture retention, and acts as a bulking agent. It is commonly found in products like candies, desserts, baked goods, ice creams, beverages, and processed foods.

Glucose syrup is less sweet than pure glucose. This is because it contains other sugars, such as maltose and higher polysaccharides, which are not as sweet as glucose alone.

Atomized glucose, also known as powdered glucose or glucose powder, is a fine, white powder form of glucose syrup. It is derived from glucose syrup through a process called spray drying. In this process, a concentrated solution of glucose syrup is atomized into tiny droplets and then dried using hot air, resulting in the formation of fine glucose powder particles.

Glucose syrup usually comes in two variants DE40 or DE60 and Glucose Powder comes in many different variants defined by the DE value.

Dextrose Equivalent (DE)

Dextrose equivalence (DE) is a term used to measure the level of conversion of starch into glucose in glucose syrup. It is a numerical value that indicates the percentage of reducing sugars present in the syrup.

In the production of glucose syrup, starch is treated with enzymes or acids to break it down into smaller sugar molecules, primarily glucose. The degree of conversion determines the DE value of the syrup.

A glucose syrup with a DE of 100 means that it is fully converted, and all the starch has been transformed into glucose, resulting in a syrup that contains only glucose molecules. On the other hand, a glucose syrup with a lower DE, such as DE 40, indicates that only 40% of the starch has been converted, and the syrup contains a mixture of glucose, maltose, and higher polysaccharides.

DE values are used to classify different types of glucose syrups based on their sweetness and functional properties. Syrups with higher DE values tend to be sweeter and have a higher viscosity (thickness), while those with lower DE values are less sweet and more resistant to crystallization.

In summary, dextrose equivalence (DE) is a measurement used to describe the extent of starch conversion into glucose in glucose syrup. It indicates the percentage of reducing sugars in the syrup and helps classify syrups based on their sweetness and functional properties.

The higher the DE the sweeter the syrup or powder is. If the DE is between 5-20 the glucose syrup is called Maltodextrin and is used as a bulking agent in ice cream.


Dextrose is the old name for the glucose monosaccharide molecule. Dextrose has a DE of 100 meaning it is pure glucose.

The form of Dextrose used in ice cream is Dextrose Monohydrate. It is a specific form of dextrose that contains one molecule of water per molecule of dextrose. The presence of the water molecule gives it the “monohydrate” designation. Dextrose monohydrate is a form of glucose that is widely used in the food industry as a sweetener, flavor enhancer, texture modifier, fermentation agent, preservative, binder, and filler. Its versatile properties make it a valuable ingredient in various food products.

In ice cream Dextrose is very useful as it is less sweet than sucrose but has almost twice the freezing point depression. This makes it important for controlling the sweetness and hardness of the ice cream.

11 thoughts on “Glucose and Dextrose Explained”

  1. thanks for this awesome application.

    If you have any tips of Sugar-free ice cream? I currently start my calculations from this base using the allulose, sucralose, an whey protein concentrate:
    stabilizer LBG+GUAR+Xantham
    pinch salt
    115g allulose
    3 egg yolk – 55g
    235p water/liquid (including vanilla and liquid sucralose to increase sweetness)
    30g whey protein extract (high quality without additives ) for more milk solids
    350g heavy whipping cream (USA grocery store standard versions)

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